Sunday, December 29, 2013

Odds and Ends for the End of the Year

This and that to clear the way for the new year…

Zynga and Heifer, International – I wrote about your ability to donate to a good cause simply by playing free poker on the Zynga site ( and I am happy to report that they have reached their goal of $200Billion (in chips) donated, which translates to $200,000 in cash for Heifer.  And since the gift will be matched, that means a lot of goats, sheep, camels, bees, and so forth for deserving families across the globe. 

One thing I like about Heifer is that, to participate, you have to agree to “pay it forward” once you establish your herd.  That means one of your first-born (of the goats, sheep, etc.) are given to another deserving family.  And so it goes.  There’s till time to give at Zynga Poker – see my earlier post as to how to activate your button.

eBook news – My fellow author, casino chip collector, and gambling authority for Al Moe has given me a plug in his latest column.  He writes about making resolutions for the new year – specifically, learning a new game, and that’s where my new eBook, The ABC’s of Craps, comes in (as many casino patrons would like to play, but don’t know how – nice lead-in, Al).  His column is here: 
Since I also believe in “paying it forward” it would behoove me to tell you about his new eBook, Mob City (Reno).  If you thought Las Vegas was the only spot in Nevada where the underworld ran the town, think again.  And…they were in Reno first.  It’s available for $2.99 (Kindle) and he also has a paperback version at Amazon for those of you not electronically inclined.  Go here:

Last Call for Coupons – You have until Tuesday night to get 20%-30% off all my books at Smashwords.  Go to:
And use the specific coupon code shown below for each book, and thanks!
  • The ABC’s of Craps – was $3.99, now $2.79 – Use code HE85J
  • The ABC’s of 21– was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code XF67M
  • Be The King! (of Small-Stakes Tournaments) – was $6.99, now $5.59 – Use code NQ65Z
  • Let the Chips Fall: A Collection of Short Stories About Gambling – was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code CX87K
And that’s it for 2013.  It’s been a very good year, and we’ll talk about it next year.  Until then, I wish you the best – may your 2014 bring you peace, joy, and prosperity.
Not necessarily in that order.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tipping the Boys at the Craps Table - a story...

Today, I’d like to take the opportunity to tell one of my favorite Craps stories, as it involves tipping.  I’d also like to let you know that the new book, “The ABC’s of Craps,” is now available on iTunes (as are all my other eBooks).  But there’s a coupon below.  But ya gotta read the story, first…

A business acquaintance (let’s call him “Sam”) met up with me and a few other colleagues and proceeded to take up to Mandalay Bay for a fantastic gourmet dinner.  The entire time Sam told us that everything was gratis, on the house, as he was a “known commodity” here (a high roller).  Afterwards, we went to shoot Craps, and he proved his point by playing nothing but black and yellow ($100 and $500 chips) with a few greens ($25) for the hardways.  Even though I had just received a promotion and a raise, it was all I could do at the time to make the $15 minimum at the table.  I played conservatively, making my meager bankroll last.

It didn’t help that we were at a chilly table.  Sam was getting agitated, as he pushed whenever he won, only to see anything resembling a win evaporate quickly.  His agitation increased when the dealers became sloppy in their chip handling and inattentive to his continual betting the one-roll center bets, all the numbers, anything to recoup his losses.  They were distracted no doubt by two of his co-workers who were younger, bustier, and less clothed than we older gents.

After about 45 minutes Sam had had about enough, and decided to “reward” the boys for their “hard” work.  “Watch this,” Sam said, as he called out, “Half and half on the yo,” and tossed two green chips to the stickman.  This meant that both he and the dealers had $25 each on the next roll, shooting for an 11. 

And the 11 hit, paying off at 16 for 1.

Normally, dealers pick up their tip bets as soon as the “winner” call is made, but once again they lagged…long enough for Sam to shout, “Push it – let it ride.”  Sam knew that he’d screw the boys good, as the odds of the shooter rolling an 11 again were slim. Instead of $375 in tips, they’d get zero.

Of course, the 11 hit again.  This time, the dealers were too quick for Sam’s “Let it ride” call, and diverted their winnings – more than $5,600 – to the boxman for safekeeping.

Sam did get some measure of revenge, as his bet was still out there, and the dealers left it.  And 11 hit again, making Sam’s take a cool $84,000 and change.  I was flabbergasted…and even more so when Sam took his winnings to the cashier’s cage and announced he wanted to pay off, “part of his marker.” 

Yeah - even after his big win, he still owed the casino a few thousand more.  He never said exactly how much more, but I finally understood why dinner was free.

And here’s a final reminder…from now until the end of 2013, you can take 30% off The ABC’s of Craps and 20% off any of my other eBooks.  Go to:
And use the specific coupon code shown below for each book, and thanks! 

  • The ABC’s of Craps – was $3.99, now $2.79 – Use code HE85J
  • The ABC’s of 21– was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code XF67M
  • Be The King! (of Small-Stakes Tournaments) – was $6.99, now $5.59 – Use code NQ65Z
  • Let the Chips Fall: A Collection of Short Stories About Gambling – was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code CX87K

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dice Control - Do Not Make Me Laugh (and coupon)

So the question was asked – can you really control the dice when you throw them in Craps?  My immediate answer was “I hardly think so,” but a quick check of the literature (aka “the Internet”) finds lots of hits for “dice control.”  Is it real?  My best answer now is “maybe, but chances are (get it?) you can’t do it.”

Many of the hot Craps books center on such techniques.  It’s nothing new – something called the “blanket roll” was around in the 20’s (that’s 1920’s, podnuh), although much of this technique was less “throw” and more “gentle toss with hardly any rotation.”  Into a blanket to reduce the variance.  Yeah, kinda not legal nowadays.

Except, the techniques employed by those who claim dice control isn’t much different.  I am paraphrasing some of the steps from a couple of websites on dice control here…it’s really quite simple:
  • Set the dice in a specific configuration before throwing them.
  • Stand at the “right” distance from the table’s back wall (and another site suggested that you be “perfectly perpendicular”).
  • Grip the dice properly (tight so there is no space between).
  • Throw them softly and properly – one site suggested “proper backswing;” another said “with minimum rotation on the perpendicular axis.”
  • Make certain that you throw them the same way each and every time.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

See?  Simple.  On one site the dice controller said it only took, “…six months of practice before I knew I had an edge and was comfortable going into the casinos to play.”  So if you have nothing better to do between now and June, grab some dice and get busy.

Obviously this isn't a goal for most folks.  I would also add some other knowledge here.  For one thing, there IS a reason that the casino has those knobby bumps all around the Craps table.  To make the dice spin and roll unpredictably, of course.  Another thing – you can’t roll the dice all the time – everyone else at the table gets a chance.  And finally, I had to laugh at one YouTube video showing a controlled throw – they were tossing the dice on what looked like a standard Craps table, but there was smooth carpet along the sides of the table (where those knobby bumps should be).  A little easier to control, maybe?

The thing is, it doesn't take much “control” to alter the odds so that the house loses its edge.  One website claimed that by rolling one fewer “seven” in 50 rolls would be enough to wipe out the house’s advantage.  That’s not a lot…control it a bit more, and you’d have the edge.  If you could do it.  Predictably.  Consistently.  Reliably.

Knock yourself out.

I don’t doubt for a second that there are players out there who claim to control the dice.  I don’t dispute that there are plenty of players who want to learn how to do it.  It makes for a wonderful opportunity – to sell books.  Not me, thank you.

Oh, and coupon - don't forget that from now until the end of 2013, you can take 30% off the new Craps book, and 20% off any of my other eBooks.

And use the specific coupon code shown below for each book, and thanks!
  •  The ABC’s of Craps – was $3.99, now $2.79 – Use code HE85J
  • The ABC’s of 21– was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code XF67M
  • Be The King! (of Small-Stakes Tournaments) – was $6.99, now $5.59 – Use code NQ65Z
  • Let the Chips Fall: A Collection of Short Stories About Gambling – was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code CX87K

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Poker Means Giving…for Good.

This time of year, we often think about charitable donations.  Giving is one of the things that makes the holiday season special.  Usually, the idea of tossing your money away at the poker tables is abhorrent.  But this season, you can do it and feel good about it, and it’s all for a good cause.  And it actually won’t cost you a dime.
You may not be familiar with the Heifer International organization.  My wife and I have been involved for a couple of years – last year we gave, as a gift to each other, a share of a sheep and some bees. Not sure what we’ll give this year – maybe a goat, or a camel.
What?  Here’s what Heifer is all about:
Heifer provides communities in developing nations with gifts of livestock, training on how to turn that livestock into a multiplying source of food and income, and education on sustainable and earth-friendly practices.
When their animals reproduce, our partners become donors by giving those baby animals to someone else who needs them. Here at Heifer, we call that Passing on the Gift®, and it is the ultimate expression of what we believe in. 
And here’s the deal on how you can play free poker and give until the cows come home: has teamed up with Heifer International to make the world a better place through games. When you play your favorite Zynga game this holiday season, you're making a positive impact on the world at the same time. Now giving is as easy as playing the game!
Your generous donations through Zynga's games will go towards furthering Heifer's mission to end hunger and poverty while caring for the earth. Zynga will donate 100 percent of its share of the sale of virtual goods in eight games, and thanks to a generous supporter, donations will be matched up to $400,000! The funds will be used to further Heifer's work in Malawi and the United States.
When you play Zynga poker, you can pass on a portion of your table winnings (a 15% “toke” for Heifer) just by playing.  And winning, of course.  I’ve given them a little over a $2 million so far.  The goal is to get TWO TRILLION in chips – that will translate to $100,000 for Zynga, and that will be matched with another $100,000.

A word of advice – if you’re playing Zynga poker, be sure to click on the little GREEN button in the upper right corner to turn on the giving function (it's RED when you first see it).  You’ll also get a “LEARN MORE” button so you can read all about Heifer.  See the pix below.

You’ll be glad you played – and gave.  Thanks.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More About the new eBook!

Does the world need another book about Craps?  Probably not, though I was never satisfied that anything currently out there meets the needs of the true “beginner.”  Did I need to write another eBook?  Yes – it keeps me off the streets, and maintains my mind’s sharpness.  Well, as much as possible,

I always thought that the poker book – Be The King – might be my claim to fame. It’s a good book, but I had the misfortune of finishing it later than I expected – right after the infamous “Black Friday” that pretty much killed online poker in the USA.  I suppose one might be surprised that I sold any after that, but I did…but I never had the success with Be The King that came with the ABC’s of 21.  So the Craps book followed along in that same vein, and…there are more to come.

I foresee another book about poker, this time centered on home games (since all you can do online is amuse yourself with play money unless you’re lucky enough to live in NV, NJ, or DE.  For now, anyway.)  I’ve outlined another online poker book when/if that becomes a reality again here, and I have an idea for a book on horse racing handicapping (where much of today’s betting happens online, too).  And who knows what will follow after that?

I may not sell a ton of ‘em, but at least two things will be accomplished:
  1. I will exorcise this need to put things in writing.  Good therapy, and
  2. Somebody might learn something they didn’t know before
Every little bit helps.  BTW...from now until the end of 2013, you can take 30% off! The ABC's of Craps.  And you can take 20% off any of my other eBooks.

And use the specific coupon code shown below for each book, and thanks!

·       The ABC’s of Craps – was $3.99, now $2.79 – Use code HE85J

·       The ABC’s of 21– was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code XF67M

·       Be The King! (of Small-Stakes Tournaments) – was $6.99, now $5.59 – Use code NQ65Z

·       Let the Chips Fall: A Collection of Short Stories About Gambling – was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code CX87K

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New eBook is published - The ABC’s of Craps: a Book for Beginners

It is with great pleasure (pleasure?  I’m giddy!) that I can announce the release of my fourth eBook: “The ABC’s of Craps: a Book for Beginners.”  I considered a title with some sort of play on words with “Craps,” but things got downright scatagorical.  Besides, I've had great success with my blackjack book, “The ABC’s of 21,” so why fix it if it ain’t broke?

This book is geared to the beginning Craps player (or someone who wants to be), and is a very easy-reading guide, complete with illustrations and examples.  And it’s cheap, too – just $3.99.  Available in seemingly every eBook format known to man, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and soon to be at iBooks (iTunes).

But wait…from now until the end of 2013, you can take 30% off!  And, should you be so inclined (and need extra gifts for special someones…or yourself), you can take 20% off any of my other eBooks.

Use the specific coupon code shown below for each book, and thanks!
  • The ABC’s of Craps – was $3.99, now $2.79 – Use code HE85J
  • The ABC’s of 21– was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code XF67M
  • Be The King! (of Small-Stakes Tournaments) – was $6.99, now $5.59 – Use code NQ65Z
  • Let the Chips Fall: A Collection of Short Stories About Gambling – was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code CX87K 
I'll update the blog advertising pages eventually.  Right now, I need a drink...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Write Words – Just Not Here

This is kind of an apology for not posting lately, and a press release, too!  Well, the PR is a bit premature, but…the news is (will be) my fourth eBook will be available soon, most likely before the end of the month/year.

It’s why I haven’t posted anything here in a while.  I had two or three ideas ready, and something in me said, “Go ahead and do the book.”  So I did.

It’s the second in what I hope will be a longer series of beginning gambling guides.  The first one – “The ABC’s of 21” – has been doing well, so now I’m happy to provide “The ABC’s of Craps.”  I thought about some cute title with a play on the “Crap” word, but nothing sounded right.  And since “The ABC’s…” worked before, don’t’ try to fix it!

Now, I do have a dilemma…I am re-reading the last draft before formatting, and I am trying to convey a thought of mine without trying to lead the potential reader astray.  Here’s the thing – the book’s emphasis is on how the game is played from a beginner’s point of view (like my previous work in Blackjack and the Poker book “Be The King”).  The other books discussed rules and the basics, and offered strategies.  The Craps book offers a “strategy,” too, but…I can’t provide a “system” or a “method” that guarantees winning…because in Craps, there IS NO SUCH THING.

And yet, that is how most Craps books are marketed.

I know from previous experience (the horse racing software program I wrote in the 90s) that gamblers want “a magic bullet.”  They WANT to be told they can win, win, WIN!  Even if it’s impossible, that’s what they want to hear.  And frankly, what chance (no pun) would my book have, offering instruction, education, and tips for “playing smart,” against a book offering this (actual write ups from four of the top 8 eBooks on Amazon):
  • Learn How You Can Turn $100 Into $30,000 In 60 Days Playing Craps.
  • BEAT THE CASINO CRAPS GAME is a clearly written manual that explains in detail a simple, foolproof strategy for making a steady profit at casino craps.
  • Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players.
  • This is the book that gives readers everything needed to get a real, verifiable edge at the game of craps…their secret Golden Touch technique and give the edge needed to beat the house.
I mean, really.  There is a special place in Hell for people who say there’s a way to “beat” a pure game of chance with a mathematical edge to the casino without mentioning the ONE and ONLY factor that makes the difference between winning and losing:


Yes, playing smart gives you a better CHANCE to BE LUCKY, and you’ll LOSE LESS by playing smart, but I’d never claim to offer someone a “proven system” (since there can’t be one).  And for those who claim to be able to control their rolls and make certain numbers come up (the subject on the last book mentioned above)…if I COULD do that, I don’t think I’d find it necessary to write a book and SHARE THE SECRET.  If you get my drift.

So, if you think of a marketing strategy that will make this new book of mine appeal to beginning Craps players without the hype of “win, win, win!” – let me know.  In the meantime, watch this space for the release date (available in Kindle, Nook, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and just about every form of electronic book there is), then go buy the damn thing.

And WIN WIN WIN!  Just kidding.  Have fun.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Homework Answers on Expectations

My last post had a “homework” assignment of sorts - I gave you a set-up (four of them, actually) and I asked about your expectations, and whether or not what you expected your opponent to have (reading him for a hand, or a range) actually mattered.  Here was the set-up:

Six-handed table, you’re in the cutoff (one from the button).  First player folds, you raise, and are called by the button.  Everyone else folds.  Flop comes…well, this time it’s Ace-Ace-Jack, with all red cards (Ace-Jack of Hearts, Ace of Diamonds).  You check.  Button makes a big bet (twice the pot).

What do you EXPECT your opponent has when you have:
      • Ace-Nine (both spades).
      • K-Q Hearts (potential straight, flush, and straight flush).
      • Jack-Ten (both spades).
      • A pair of black sevens.

Bonus question…does your expectation matter?  Why or why not? 

Kind of a trick question.  What you hold is not relevant to what you can expect your opponent to hold EXCEPT for the fact that if YOU hold one (or both) of the cards you might expect him to have, the odds of him having those cards is actually LESS.  In other words, if you hold an Ace (and there are two on the board) the chance of him having the case Ace is drastically reduced.  Ditto two hearts if you think he’s holding two hearts, etc.

And…if you have a read on him, AND you have a good grasp of his tendencies, you might be able to piece two and two together and play the hand differently than if you just assumed that his big bet meant that he had a solid hand.

In my real-life situation, I held the KQ-hearts (the second example), and normally, his overbet would have told me that he had a Jack (for two pair), or maybe even an Ace (for trips).  But I had played with him enough at this table to know three things:
  1. He usually (90%+) made some kind of bet when it was checked to him on the button.
  2. He usually made a larger bet with smaller holdings (and made small, inviting bets when he had the nuts, to encourage play), and most importantly,
  3. He ALWAYS made a bet whenever a pair showed on the board.

It was this last bet that allowed me to dismiss any kind of a real hand and to consider a call or a raise.  The call seemed good enough to me at first (I figured I was ahead of whatever he had and had a chance to make a monster hand though pot odds were not quite right), but the raise would give me more information (and a bigger pot if I was correct in my assumption…and it held up), so I raised him by the same amount (twice the original pot).  To my surprise, he just called.

Now, I paused to reconsider his holdings.  He tended to be somewhat loose and aggressive, but I expected him to either fold (if he had air) or, if he had trips or the expected two-pair, to re-raise (probably all-in).  Even if he was on a flush draw like me, the expectation was that he’d re-raise. Of course, I had the higher flush draw…but he didn’t know that.  So what was he doing calling?

He either wanted to see the next card, like me, or he was planning to take the hand away on the turn regardless of what card fell, either because (a) he had the nuts, or (b) wanted to represent the nuts, regardless.  But which one?

The debate inside my head ceased the moment the third heart hit the board.  My flush was complete, but…did I lead out?  Or did I check again, allowing him to dictate the action?  I made a bet for half the sizable pot, and waited to see how he reacted.  If he had junk, he’d fold.  If he had the flush, too, he might call or re-raise.  But again, he just called.  I still put him on a J-x hand, though two smaller hearts was a possibility.

The river card was the 7 of diamonds, a real nothing card as far as I was concerned, and I made a pot size bet.  And then he raised all-in.

Back to my expectations…one of the hands I thought he might have had but dismissed on the turn was the holding of a small pair, like sixes, or…sevens.  If he did have the pocket sevens, he now held a boat that crushed my flush.  But would I expect him to play the hand this way if he had two pair that was likely to be the SMALLER of two pair if I held a Jack?

Actually, yes.  And a fold from me was in order.  Except…go back to #2.  He was the classic, “weak means strong, strong means weak” player (thank you, Mike Caro).  He had been strong all along, and his call on the turn despite there being a potential flush draw showed patience…as if he planned to go all-in on the river all along.  I had him covered, and he was basically all-in for his tournament life (we were the last six of a two-table 18-player tourney).  So I called.

I was right - he DID have a small pair - fives.  My flush held, and he exited in 5th place.  The win catapulted me to the lead, and I eventually won the tournament.  Not braggin’, just fact.

He erred not in being aggressive, but in failing to realize his own expectations of ME.  I had not made a re-raise at the final table with anything less than a solid hand (I was playing maybe 15% of all hands, and he was playing three times as much).  Yes, THIS time I was betting on the come (and made it), but my initial re-raise (and my bet on the turn) should have set off alarm bells.  My pot-size bet on the river was a call for a white flag, but instead, he decided to ram a lesser holding at me.

And I expected it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don’t Let Your Expectations Extinguish Your Profits

In my last post I talked about a bad review I received for my book of short stories about gambling entitled, “Let The Chips Fall.”  In my opinion, the bad review was prompted not because the book sucks, but because it didn’t meet the buyer’s erroneous expectations.  I then went on to explain why it’s such a great b…no, actually I explained how we can use the idea of missed expectations = dissatisfaction” equation in our playing of poker!

The first example I gave was about how one’s avatar and screen name might provide a false identity.  This is also true in live poker, and the irony here is that the VERY FIRST story in my book is about a guy who plays professional in Vegas, but acts like a tourist.  He drinks constantly from bottles of Bud (except they’re filled with water courtesy of a deal he has with the bartender), and is all dressed up in souvenir clothing.  I had him in a St. Louis Cardinals’ jacket (and a Branson, MO cap) - if it was the other way around some might have thought I was describing Dennis Phillips (and the story was published before Dennis and his cap made it big).  No matter…in the book, this character teaches our protagonist some lessons in poker and in life, explaining his dress and non-booze thusly:

"Booze ain't no good for your head when you're trying to think, son.  That's lesson number two.  Lesson number one is things ain't always what they seem to be."

Obviously expectations at the table are more than what players look like.  Or what they say and how they act.  Table talk and poker tells are notoriously misleading, and Mike Caro said it first and best - “weak means strong, strong means weak.”  But there are other misleading parts of the poker puzzle that can give you expectations that go wrong.

Take this scenario:  6-handed table, you’re in the cutoff (one from the button).  First player folds, you raise, and are called by the button.  Everyone else folds.  Flop comes rainbow blah (no face cards and three different suits), you check, and button bets a small amount (say, 1/3 to 1/2 the pot).  There are two possibilities:
  1. They have a “good” hand, and they want to encourage you to continue in the hand, thinking they have you beat.  More money in the pot means a larger win for them.
  2. They have nothing, and want to discourage you from the hand, thinking you also have nothing.  They’re willing to bet a little bit to win a little bit.

Your expectation is pretty much as described, and playing the hand from here follows your “normal” (for you) pattern.  Unless you’ve seen their play before this hand AND have made a determination as to what type of player they are (aggressive, passive, very good, very poor, etc.).  You can then better determine whether they are the type of player to make a stab at the pot regardless of what they hold, or would only bet if the flop hit/fit their hand.  You can either call or raise… or fold.  It depends on your expectations as to what they would normally do in this situation with a pair…or trips…or nothing.

Now, let’s make the bet very large, as in an overbet (say, two-to-three times the pot).  Your expectation changes.  Again, you have to know what this player is capable of.  Is he making a large bet to entice, or to get you out of the hand NOW?

That’s a helluva choice.  And unlike in the first scenario, the cost of being wrong is a whole lot more.

This is why reading your opponents and putting them on a range of hands is so vital to successful card play.  You need to understand what you opponent might be holding and why he is betting the way he is (given those cards) in order to make the best approach to the hand - raise, fold…or just call (the lesser desired option, usually).

Here’s another example, and we’ll make this one a story problem for you to respond to (as it really happened, and I’m not going to give the answer today):

Same set up as before…6-handed table, you’re in the cutoff (one from the button).  First player folds, you raise, and are called by the button.  Everyone else folds.  Flop comes…well, this time it’s Ace-Ace-Jack, with all red cards (Ace-Jack of Hearts, Ace of Diamonds).  You check.  Button makes a big bet (twice the pot).

What do you EXPECT your opponent has when you have:
  1. Ace-Nine (both spades)
  2. K-Q Hearts (potential straight, flush, and straight flush).
  3. Jack-Ten (both spades).
  4. A pair of black sevens.

Bonus question…does your expectation matter?  Why or why not?  Comment here or on my Facebook (as that seems easier for most everyone).  Next time I’ll tell you what happened…

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bad Review - What To Do? Learn From It!

When you interact with the public, everyone has the same goal - to be loved (or at least, liked a while lot).  In my “real job” our ice cream store is reviewed constantly on TripAdvisor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, etc., and we have the good fortune to usually garner 4 or 5 stars almost all of the time (partly because the spousal unit makes absolutely incredible ice cream).  As a writer, I look forward to reviews and always hope that they are favorable.  Until recently, that’s been the case, but I just received my first 1-star review.

I have to be careful here.  With the ice cream store, we do get the occasional lousy review, but because there are so many others that are 5-stars, I figure that one of two things happened:
  1. They got the wrong store (happened twice).
  2. Their expectations were out of whack with what we’re all about.
Now, let me explain #2 - we’re a small, simple ice cream shop, mostly cones and dishes.  Sometimes folks want something different, say, a banana split, or they want two half-scoops because they can’t decide on a flavor, or they want a flavor we don’t make (like Cookie Dough or Gramma’s Cake batter).  So when a potential customer comes in and asks for something we don’t have, they can either (a) go to one of the other shops in town, or (b) get pissed at us because they expect us to have it and dammit, that’s just not right and every other store in the world has it and why can’t you do this, and so on.  I am amazed just how upset people can get over ice cream, and I’ve learned that in the 21st Century, some people decide to get upset and “get even” by writing bad reviews.  The ultimate, online, “That’ll teach the son-of-a-bitch.”

Now, again, I have to be careful, because I really believe that the individual who purchased by book of gambling short stories is sincere in his opinions, and opinions are never wrong.  The fact behind them might be, but the opinion stands on its own.  However, I believe that like my ice cream 1-star reviewers, this individual’s expectations were out of whack.  Thing is, I don’t know how he got ‘em.

In his short review, he says, I expected detailed stories from the tables and got nothing. I have no idea how he got that expectation.  The write up for the book states, “This is a collection of short stories and articles that I have written over the years about poker, gambling, and the like.”  The book is actually… a collection of short stories and articles about poker, gambling, and the like.  The book has a “Look Inside” feature which displays the first 10% of the book, including the table of contents.  Only ONE of the stories is about poker, though, ironically, it’s the one in the sample.  The others cover slot machines, craps, horse racing, risk, and gambling in general.  The table Of Contents isn’t perfectly clear about this, but it also doesn’t say that all the stories are about the tables.  And since one can read SOME of the first story, one might get an indication as to how interesting (or not) the writing is.

One thought - perhaps he saw that I wrote other books on poker and blackjack, and just assumed…and you know what happened when you assume…

I don’t know if he’s purchased any of my other books - the other reviewer (who gave it 5-stars) did, and he loved the other two books, too.  Chances are the 1-star reviewer won’t buy any others.  No surprise.  Hopefully, the next eBook he buys he’ll use the “Look Inside” feature and get a better idea what he’s purchasing.

So what the “Learn From It” part of this post?  Well, obviously, I learned that I’m not headed for any book awards in the near future (but I knew that).  The real “learning” is another way to apply the “missed expectations = dissatisfaction” equation - to poker!

I’m still coming up with a bunch of examples as to how a player can make costly mistakes because of poor expectations at the table, but for now, here’s one:  When you play online, what’s the first thing you learn about your opponents? 

Let me re-phrase that - what’s the first bit of information you learn about your opponents?

Answer: Their screen name and (if they have one), their avatar.

Can you really “learn” something from this information?  Sometimes, but you usually ALWAYS develop an expectation from the info. What is your assumption about an opponent with these screen names and avatars?

Miss Kitty
Card Shark

Let’s just take the first one…chances are, you’re thinking this opponent is male, young, and aggressive, perhaps foolishly so (big bets, all-in, reckless).  You’d be surprised (and perhaps, a bit poorer) when you learn that he plays conservatively, smart, and the only time he goes all-in is when he has the nuts.  You get the idea.

BTW, I always assume that the second player shown above is also male and young, trying to pass himself off as a woman.  As for the third one…what do you think?  Drop me a comment. 

Or a bad review.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More WSOP Thoughts

Well, it’s over, and like I said, the Michigan kid won (Ryan Riess is from there, a graduate of Michigan State University…oh well, can’t be perfect).  I thought he played very well, and his worthy opponent, Jay Farber, played OK, but did not have the depth to change his game.  He was aggressive, stayed aggressive, and that was his undoing as Riess kinda waited him out and let Farber bet on his no-so-great cards.

I made reference yesterday to a line from David “The Maven” Chicotsky’s column in PokerPlayer called Different Styles of Play in Tournaments.  Too bad Mr. Farber did not read that column.  I thought he did a nice job early in disguising his bluffs, and even when we came up short in that $58 million hand when Riess had pocket jacks, he fought back well.  But he couldn’t change his game sufficiently to pull completely even, and he pressed too much, too hard, and lost to superior holdings.  An entertaining evening, nonetheless.

Two thoughts – one related to last night’s action, and one to WSOP in general.

1.     I haven’t heard much clamor this year for a “shot clock” during tournament play.  That is, a clock that would limit the amount of time a player had to think about his action before being automatically folded – you know, like on EVERY online game.   Riess was the only one that seemed to tank much, a couple of times hitting the five-minute mark, but for the most part play moved along at a nice clip.  Interestingly, almost every time Riess took a long time to think about his actions, whatever he chose to do turned out to be the wrong thing.  So maybe don’t think so hard about it?  Hard to argue with his play overall, though.

2.     If you went to the WSOP website ( you no doubt saw that they have an online game that folks can play, and, if you’ve been following the news, you know that their real-money site in Nevada (Caesar’s Entertainment, the folks who now own the World Series of Poker) is up and running.  If you lived in Nevada, you have been seeing their TV ads, encouraging players to make deposits and “play for real.” In fact, while in Vegas last month, I saw posters and ads INSIDE the Caesar’s Entertainment casinos encouraging online play.  I can’t help but wonder two things:

1)    Will the return of real-money poker to Nevada, New Jersey, and soon…Delaware (plus whatever state gets its collective shit together and legalizes online poker) build interest in the WSOP?  Ever since Black Friday live action tournaments like WSOP have seen declining  numbers of entrants, although not as drastic as many predicted.

2)    How long before the an online tournament grows in prize money to rival the WSOP (I know there are many such mega-events on PokerStars and FullTilt, but I mean the MAIN EVENT).

3)    OK, three things…will an online event ever capture the attention of “poker fans” like ESPN’s coverage of the WSOP?

I know I’ll never play in it, but it fun to watch (and dream about) the World Series of Poker as it is.  What do you think?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

WSOP Thoughts – and Advice

This is more “thoughts” than “advice,” as I am hardly in a position to give advice to either of the two remaining participants in this year’s WSOP Main Event (they play tonight at 6pm PST on ESPN for he $8million+ first prize, if you care).  I “watched” (live stream commentary) via the Internet and also watched “live” (15-minute delay on ESPN2) last night of the final table action, where the November Nine became two.  Interesting to watch, and the play offers some good lessons for us casual players.

First off – last night’s action made a comment in David “The Maven” Chicotsky’s column in PokerPlayer which, not so ironically, ran yesterday.  He spoke of Different Styles of Play in Tournaments (article name and topic – nice touch), and said:

My recommendation to you is as a general rule, if you don’t know what to do—re-raise or fold. Try to get out of the habit of calling as a last resort; many times it’s better to just fold your hand in these situations. 

This is something we see a lot of at the entry-level and small-fee tournaments – players call a raise “just to see the flop, just in case.”  This can be an expensive habit…usually, if the initial raise means something (justifying a raise), it still means something once the flop is displayed.  If you can with middling holdings, you might hit something on the flop, but…do you have a hand better than the original raiser?   If your hand was worthwhile in the first place, a re-raise was in order.  If it was semi-junk…folding was your call, because you might, or might not, be ahead now…and it might cost you dearly to find out which.

Watching last night’s play, we saw a lot of raises followed by a re-raise, which then saw the original raiser muck his hand.  Once the hole cards were displayed, we saw that often times the re-raise was justified (a pair of 9s re-raises A-6 offsuit, or A-K suited re-raises A-10).  What I took from this was that certain players were making the initial raise just to get action started (especially true when they were down to six players) in an attempt to steal the blinds and antes (especially lucrative in the latter stages, of course).  Sometimes it worked, sometimes not, but most of the time they were easily able to toss away inferior holdings and live to play again.

Which is why it was kind of funny to see it go from nine players to two as quickly as it did, especially near the end (bang, pause, bang, BANG, just like that).  JC Tran was fairly aggressive for much of the night until he got short stacked, and it was strange to hear him (and others) talk about being card dead, as I thought he held mostly meat when he was active.  Yes, he got unlucky a few times, but there were a few others where he was too aggressive, and should have taken a slower tact.  But that’s his style, and it got him to the final table as the chip leader, so sometimes that’s just the way it goes.  The others who hit the rail – they too, played well until they didn’t, or luck caught up with them (I’m looking at YOU, Marc-Etienne McLaughlin), and face it – you would’ve loved your pocket Kings, too (unless you KNEW the chip leader had Aces).  So it goes.

What can we learn from this?  Stay aggressive.  Raise or fold, don’t just call.  Pick your spots to be aggressive and don’t be afraid to respect the other guy’s re-raise so that you can play on.

And as far as the final two…since Reiss is a Michigan boy, I guess I’m rooting for him (despite the fact that he’s an MSU grad…can’t hold anything like that against him this week).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Vegas Report – I Was There, and…Meh

In case you were wondering why so few posts lately, it’s because I’ve been out of town.  And one of the towns I was IN was Las Vegas!  I did not go there to gamble, but to celebrate my 38th Anniversary with my lovely wife.

OK, full disclosure: I did gamble, but not much.  I lost maybe $15-20, but with the comps I came out ahead, though it didn’t feel like it.  I said I didn’t come to gamble, and…well, the “new Las Vegas” helped in keeping me away from the tables and the slots.  And that’s why the trip was a downer.  Let me explain…

I missed the glory days of the mob-era, when anything you needed could be had by guys named Artie or Vinnie, and the casino lost money everywhere BUT at the tables, as they knew that the money there was a sure thing. I came of age, gambling-wise, in the 80’s and 90’s, when the employers I worked for seemed to have a convention in Vegas every year or more often, and the suits were starting to take over the casinos.  It was the era of the themed resort – circuses, tropical paradise, New York, Paris…even a damn pyramid!  Rooms and meals were still cheap, but they casino also took your dough with the shows (Siegfried and Roy, the first Cirque de Soleil, etc.).  After all, there were investors to consider.

Flash forward to this trip – I haven’t been to Las Vegas in 13 years (most of my gambling now done online or at one of two nearby Indian casinos).  I had been told that things were different.

Boy, howdy.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no other place on earth like it.  Las Vegas always seems to be re-inventing itself, and trying to top itself.  Maybe they have…but I don’t like it, and I really don’t think they encourage you to gamble like in the old days.

Two things stand out that make me NOT want to play.  First off, the music.  Yes, I’m a child of Motown, and love jazz, classical, the disco era…just about any type of music…except today’s modern rave/dance/thump-thump-thump stuff.  This would be appropriate in the casino at night, when they’re trying to attract the younger set, but at 7:30am, when 90% of your buffet line is aged 55+…it’s not the right call.  It’s everywhere – casino, restaurants, lobby, and in the new City Center area, on the damn sidewalks. And it’s loud.  I mean really, really loud.  I sound like an old man I know, but it was hard to carry on a conversation at the table, hard to concentrate, and just not inviting.  I can’t believe management thinks this is a good move, and I only saw a fairly full casino floor one night (Saturday)…most other nights they were lucky to have 30% of the tables going, and half the slots.  Just didn’t seem as lively as in days of old.

The other negative thing?  Ads, everywhere.  Yes, Vegas has always been self-promotion crazy – billboards, busboards, taxi toppers, and some of the biggest electronic signs anywhere (I’m looking at YOU, Aria).  But…you know those little placards on the table that tell you what the high/low betting limits are?  They’re electronic now, and…they got ads.  Just about everywhere you look inside (and out) the casino, there’s an ad screaming at you to spend some money.  No, I mean EVERYWHERE.  See pic.
That’s just disgusting.

So yeah, Vegas is an exciting place, nowhere else like it on earth, and I think it might be another 13 years before I go back.  Unless they turn down the volume a bit.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sponge Poker – Nice Idea, but…

Hey, I’m back!  Tourist season is over, and that means so is my hiatus.  I plan to be blogging on a semi-regular basis for the next few weeks, as there’s still some work to be done at the store (we went the last two weeks with a busted AC system, thank you) and I have a trip planned to a small town in Nevada for some R&R.  Still, I wanted to start the “writing” season with a bang, so here’s a short review of a new social network poker site – Sponge Poker.

I first read about Sponge Poker online at Poker News Daily this week.  I’ve also noticed that the site has received some other reviews, most glowing for the potential this site has.  Sponge Poker is a Facebook-type app (FB users – enter “Sponge Poker”). What they’ve done is changed the interface (it’s their own software) to provide a very realistic playing mode. 

Sure, there are the usual “POT” and “FOLD” button, but most betting is done by actually “handling” the chips.  Just like on the tables, this provides the opportunity to see the occasional “tell” prior to the actual bet (as players start counting their chips before it’s their turn just like on the table).  Of course, you can use this to send a “false tell” too (did it once).  There are some other aspects of the game that do indeed provide what they say is, “the most realistic online poker game ever created.”

Signing up is free, and, as a bonus, the site is giving any player who builds their $1500 starting stack to $10,000 actual money – well, $10 – and it’s put in your PayPal account.  Still, $10 is $10.

Still, Sponge Poker is a free site.  Although the site claims that they won’t be giving out free chips endlessly (you can buy them just like at Zynga Poker), so far my experience is that most player are playing like they will…when there are players.  The all-in disease so familiar at Zynga lives here, too.  J-3?  All-in.  10-4?  All in!  A pair of twos?  HELL YES, ALL IN.  It’s nauseating.

The first night I played I won a few play bucks and had fun.  Since then it’s either been

a)    All in Circus, or

b)    No one there.

Seriously – go there now, sign up, and see if anyone is there.  It’s too bad that the site is so sparsely played, as the layout is one of the best I’ve played at.  But no one seems to know but the All-In-A**holes, so…I’ll check back at the site once the dust clears and the AIAs go somewhere else.